In my previous post, we established that saturated fat is not, in fact, killing us. And that it is probably protective against heart disease and cancer, when compared to vegetable oil. Coconut fat, which is mostly saturated, also brings medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which boost energy, help with weight loss, and give the immune system a hand with fighting infections. And the best bit? Coconut tastes delicious. I’m talking about the white, meaty stuff of the coconut. Where all the lovely fat is stored. 80% of the calories in coconut come from fat (and 80% of those from saturated fat), with only 7% from sugar. This makes coconut, and its products, beautifully creamy and sweet, while being low in sugar and high in fibre. It’s the only viable dairy replacement, and a great addition to a lower carbohydrate diet. So, we should all eat more coconut. Here’s how.
You may have seen the recent media storm about coconut oil. “Coconut oil: are the health benefits a big fat lie?” (the Guardian). “Coconut oil ‘as unhealthy as beef fat or butter’.” (the BBC). “Coconut oil isn’t healthy. It’s never been healthy.” (USA Today – yes, I’m an avid follower). My visceral reaction to such headlines is to spin into a uncontrollable rage about how the media intentionally misreport science to attract readers. And that’s what I did this time. Until I read the source material. While predictably sensationalised, the media interpretation, as it turns out, wasn’t far off. In June, the American Heart Association (AHA) published a paper damning saturated fat (again) and advising “against the use of coconut oil.” Recommendations from the AHA carry a lot of weight. As do those from similar institutions both sides of the Atlantic. We trust them. But when it comes to nutrition, we probably shouldn’t.
Stress kills. The evidence is pretty convincing. Like with smoking and alcohol. But we’re not stressed, right? We don’t feel anxious or worried. We’re not trembling and sweaty. We don’t feel unable to cope. That may be true. But it doesn’t mean we’re not stressed. I recently sat some exams. And it gave me the opportunity to reflect on stress. Exams are stressful. Not life-threatening, but stressful all the same. The same is true of many (most?) other situations or events that modern life throws at us. It’s the accumulation of this low-level stress that’s harmful. We can’t avoid it completely, and nor would we want to. But we can manage it. And we must.
All forms of life are built entirely from the nutrients they consume. In order to thrive, every species in every kingdom on this planet needs a unique range of nutrients from specific foods. Natural selection has made it so. Straying from this evolution-defined menu is bad news. Not just for the critter that strays, but for everything above it in the food chain. What you eat is important. But what you eat eats determines whether what you eat is any good.
We live a lot longer than our Victorian forebears. Largely thanks to the decline of infectious disease and our ability to treat it. Antibiotics have played a big part in this. And they continue to be very effective and life-saving drugs. That’s the upside. There’s also a downside, though. And it’s much bigger than most of us think. But there are situations where a course of antibiotics is the right answer. The good news is, we can limit the damage.
There was an interesting programme on BBC2 recently. Part of the Horizon series. It was called Clean Eating – The Dirty Truth. You should watch it. Dr. Giles Yeo, a Cambridge research scientist, was dispatched to condemn the health claims made by various ‘clean eating’ advocates. No evidence, he said. No proof. There is a lot of this around at the moment. A backlash against health living. Of course we should sense check any new lifestyle advice before diving in. But how much evidence do we need?
Welcome 2017. It’s going to be a great year! And to kick it off, we finish the list of processed foods that make it into our house. There may be a few surprises in here. But bear with me.
The vast majority of processed foods are detrimental to our health. I’ve talked about this before. The lack of conscience in the food industry is shameful. It makes banking (my old profession) look like a social enterprise. But food processing is not necessarily bad. It’s all a matter of degree. Some processed foods remain close enough to their whole food counterparts to earn a place in a healthy diet. They combine quality and convenience. There are even some forms of processing that increase the health properties of certain foods. So, yes, we have processed foods in our house. Eighteen to be exact. Here I cover the first eight.
Food is the single biggest determinant of health. It’s also the foundation of family and community. Food is the number one priority in our house. It’s that important. But life seems to have a habit of getting in the way.
We think of disease as serious. Because by the time we receive a diagnosis it often is. But disease starts long before any clinical symptoms manifest. If we can recognise the early signs and take action, we can delay or even avoid serious illness. Sadly, our medical system is not set up to do this. It requires a bit of DIY.